Sunday, July 22, 2012
Movies2Watch: The Dictator
Verbally sparring during improvised scenes with Sacha Baron Cohen is a nerve wracking, unpredictable, exciting and, ultimately, a highly rewarding experience, says Anna Faris.
The talented actress admits that she didn’t quite know what to expect when she signed up to star alongside the man she regards as comedic ‘genius’ in The Dictator.
“I’d met Sacha a couple of times at parties, but it was so brief and I never really knew what to make of him... but then they asked me to come in and meet him for The Dictator,” she says. “The whole project was top secret and nobody really knew anything about it.
“I was terrified, really nervous, because he’s so good, he’s a genius, and you want to step up to the plate. And so we met and we ended up doing some of the scenes, all improvisation.
“The director gave us some loose scenarios and we started playing around. I think, about three months later, I actually got the role. And as you can imagine, I was very, very happy to be a part of it.”
On set too, Baron Cohen loves to improvise during scenes and he expects his fellow actors to do the same – riffing on the loose outlines for each scenario given in the script.
“We did a ton of improvisation,” she says. “There was a script and I would say that about 10 per cent of the time, we followed the script.
“And we had the writers behind the monitors, throwing out lines to us all of the time – different jokes, different ideas. And Sacha is a genius at improve, so the challenge as an actor when you are in those scenes is to stay on your toes.
“You have to step up to the plate and be able to play with them. It was really rewarding in that way.”
Award-winning writer/performer/filmmaker Sacha Baron Cohen has made a living out of culture clash. Whether as a British Jamaican-wannabe rapper slash chat show host, a somewhat naïve Kazakhstani television reporter or an out and relatively out there Austrian fashionista, Baron Cohen is in the business of finding humor and revelation in the often uncomfortable collision of vastly differing viewpoints and lifestyles. His stupendously and deservedly popular British television series made its wildfire way to the British movie screen. His subsequent and unstoppable transition to Hollywood was made in a film helmed by director Larry Charles, who again collaborated with Baron Cohen on his follow-up project (and now, once again, with The Dictator). Larry Charles comments, “When we did Brüno, we were shocked because we had thought that after Borat, we’d never get away with it again.“
Going in with the character of General Aladeen, however, was to be a different experience, and the ‘real’ world was to be replaced with a facsimile of a real, scripted world—however, just outside of the borders of this fictitious North African country, a real world waits…
Production of The Dictator began in Brooklyn, New York, in June of 2011. For the next three months the company visited four of New York’s five boroughs, setting down in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The task of finding the various locations fell to production designer Victor Kempster and location manager Kip Myers.
Says Myers, “This particular film had a lot of locations already written into the script: the United Nations, a zoo, Fifth Avenue. But the idea of creating Wadiya in New York presented more of a puzzle.”
And the tone of the film was very interesting, in that it was a funny political satire making use of all of his skills as a comedian,” continues production designer, Victor Kempster. “But it also had a nice story and a rather graceful way to handle the comedy of it. In a way, there is a little bit of an old-fashioned story, but so up-to-the-minute, a fish-out-of-water. You have this completely insane character, whose relationship with the real world makes no sense. He’s a complete narcissist and very bizarre. Then he’s brought to New York, and he winds up in a totally unfamiliar world.”
Paramount Pictures Presents A Four By Two Films / Berg Mandel Schaffer / Scott Rudin Production: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris and Ben Kingsley star in The Dictator. The music is by Erran Baron Cohen. The costume designer is Jeffrey Kurland.
“The Dictator” rated R by the MPAA is distributed locally by United International Pictures thru Solar Entertainment Corporation. Showing at your favorite theaters on July 25.